SUNBURY — As expected, the 52nd meeting of the cross-river rivalry between Selinsgrove and Shikellamy featured plenty of intense action on both sides of the ball.
But after starting the season with a pair of losses, the Braves had a little extra to prove against the Seals, who have dominated the series in recent years.
Shikellamy staked out to a two-touchdown lead at the half, and the Braves’ defense did the rest to pull out a 14-7 Heartland-I victory over Selinsgrove on Friday the 13th at Shikellamy Stadium.
"After the way the first two weeks have gone, the kids have held their ground at home. All week (us coaches) felt the kids had a great week of practice," said Shikellamy coach Todd Tilford. "The kids were still frustrated by the way things have gone. I said we have to cut out the mistakes and keep on believing. The kids kept on plugging away and they earned the win against a real good Selinsgrove team.
"It’s easy to doubt yourselves when things don’t go so well, but to get a win over a great Selinsgrove team should improve our confidence and set the tone for the rest of the season," added Tilford
Once again Selinsgrove (2-1, 0-1 HAC-I) lost the turnover battle as the Seals threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away once.
The second miscue by the Seals resulted in a quick six points for the Braves when Jean Turber intercepted a pass from Isaiah Rapp and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown with five minutes remaining in the second quarter.
And when Shikellamy (1-2, 1-0) got the ball back with just over two minutes left before halftime, the Braves wasted little time to build onto its lead.
Beginning near midfield, Shikellamy needed just six plays to score again as Nick Dunn gained most of those yards by catching a 37-yard pass from Garrett Kemberling to give the Braves a 14-0 lead.
"We told the kids we felt like we had all of our bad breaks packed in the first two weeks," said Tilford. "We felt like if we ever got something good going and the kids got some confidence, we would be fine."
"Shikellamy had a great game plan and their kids came ready to play," said Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess. "We had a lot of things exposed that we’re not doing right, and I told my kids they are going to benefit from this loss in the long run."
Selinsgrove would finally get on the board with 6.8 seconds left in the third quarter by getting a 10-yard touchdown run from Zach Adams, but the Seals’ offense never fully got in gear to reach the endzone again.
That was evident when Shikellamy’s defense sacked Rapp on two fourth-down plays in the final period, with Turber and Shawn Stover combining for the final one with just over two minutes remaining to effectively seal the deal for the Braves.
"We got a little momentum and the kids played some smart defense. It’s a good sign," Tilford added. "Coach (Brad) Catherman, our first-year defensive coordinator, deserves a lot of the credit. We really did some hard looking at what we were doing and he made some great adjustments to take away Selinsgrove’s speed, and our kids did what they had to do."
"This game was terrible for us to lose. It’s a league loss, it’s tough. But on the other hand this may have been the most important game for us," said Hess "We have to step back, assess where we are and we have to learn from our mistakes and get a whole lot better.
"You just have to hand it to Shikellamy, they out-played us up front. There’s no two ways about it, we didn’t block well enough and Shikellamy got the job done," added Hess.